Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Palak Mangat

DISCUSSING AN IMPORTANT ISSUE – Representatives of all three Yukon political parties attended last Thursday evening’s fifth annual general meeting of the Community Midwifery Association Yukon at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

Midwifery rules on track for year’s end

The territorial government is drafting regulations to have midwifery regulated by the end of this year.

By Palak Mangat on March 4, 2019

The territorial government is drafting regulations to have midwifery regulated by the end of this year.

This comes after results from a Yukon government survey show more than 75 per cent feel access to services before and after childbirth is very important.

That’s among the findings in a public engagement report, which was referenced last Thursday at the fifth annual general meeting of the Community Midwifery Association Yukon (CMAY).

Health professionals who provide care to patients during pregnancy, labour and birth, midwives also offer care to the parent and baby after birth.

Kathleen Cranfield, the CMAY’s president, welcomed the news from Community Services Minister John Streicker and Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time; I do believe, as the report says, that families in the Yukon want midwives,” Cranfield told reporters last Thursday evening.

“I also think it’s important to acknowledge the voices that say we are providing the care here already.”

Work to draft the regulations, Streicker explained, is now underway and will cover things like the scope of practice, levels of education needed and other competencies.

The now-governing Yukon Liberals ran in part on a platform to fund regulated midwifery. That’s something Cranfield was well aware of, as she noted it has been spoken about for at least a decade.

“If we were reinventing the wheel, I would say this is going to take a long time,” she said.

Herself a registered midwife since 2007, Cranfield first moved to the territory in 1998 and has spent time working in B.C., Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Ontario.

“The urgency comes in because women are using midwives, birthing people are using midwives all over the country and then they move here and want a midwife again and they aren’t provided that choice.”

It’s been a long time coming, but Cranfield is hopeful the government will stay true to its goal and deliver on the timeline by year’s end.

“Women are planning their pregnancies around this, you know; I’ve had women say, ‘so many people have contacted to say I’m having a baby, will it be regulated by now?’”

She noted that it didn’t necessarily point to weaknesses to how the current system was set up, but it did allow for more options.

“It’s not to say that the current maternity care isn’t exceptional, it’s just that this choice is really important to women and families and birthing people.”

As for the What We Heard report itself, Cranfield guessed it was a reflection of the territory’s overall opinions toward midwifery.

“It speaks to the representation of our community; there are people that are having babies and there are people that are providing services such as midwives,” she said.

“There are nurses that definitely want to see this happen, there are physicians that want to see this happen, there are physicians that say, ‘wait wait, I care about the safety of women and I want to see this happen in a safe way.’”

According to the report, more than 80 per cent of respondents agreed with YG’s current approach whereas just over 15 per cent disagreed.

Those who took the survey were faced with a plan YG put forth, which would allow for regulated midwife-attended births along with services before and after childbirth as choices in the city.

It would then be phased into other communities, with the option to support services in Watson Lake and Dawson City.

Meanwhile, for those educated outside of the country, there are currently two schools that offer bridging programs for midwives (Ryerson University in Toronto and UBC), while in Canada, it’s a four-year health sciences program.

Students here have six schools to choose from, They’re spread out across Quebec, Ontario, B.C. and Manitoba.

Because midwives aren’t regulated, the group believes their ability to provide services is limited.

A CMAY webpage notes that they cannot order diagnostic labs or tests, and don’t have hospital privileges.

Women in the territory can fork up to $3,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for midwifery related services, the group notes.

“This is working everywhere else in the country,” Cranfield said.

The Yukon, she noted, is one of the last jurisdictions with registered midwives. (The Canadian Association of Midwives notes the territory joins a list of Prince Edward Island, as of 2017.)

The online survey was open from Sept. 20 to Nov. 16, 2018 and received 618 responses.

In-person focus groups were held between Oct. 22 and Dec.14 in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake.

In addition, one teleconference focus group was held for people located outside of those three communities. In total, 15 focus groups were held with 80 participants.

Meanwhile, Streicker noted that it was encouraging to see all three parties represented at last week’s meeting, as the Yukon Party’s Brad Cathers and the NDP’s Kate White were also in attendance.

“There is no debate about whether it should happen or not; it’s really a conversation of how it should happen,” Streicker said.

The meeting also saw participants raise concerns about access to French and Indigenous language services, its inclusion into the existing health care system, and having a diverse range of midwives who speak different languages.

The public engagement results from the report are available online, via engageyukon.ca

“This public engagement provided us extensive and detailed information and insights from both Yukoners and our territory’s health care professionals,” Streicker said.

“Thanks to all Yukoners for their input. The results of this engagement signal to us that regulating midwifery is a priority for Yukoners, and we are working now to make this a viable option by the end of 2019.”

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